This presentation explores the relationship between aesthetic philosophy and art objects in public museums of art in German states in the first half of the nineteenth century. It argues that during this revolutionary period a conflict emerged between the ideal and the material registers of the museum’s public mission. As German museums sought to create spaces where visitors could leave behind the constraints of the material world and experience an ideal realm of beauty, they also confronted works of art that resisted transcendence: objects whose material condition, provenance, and art historical interpretation defied attempts to enlist them into a realm of pure ideas and meanings. By looking at the conflicts that emerged in early public museums’ efforts to create physical environments that conformed to theoretical principles, this presentation also reflects on the resonance of this history within contemporary museum practice.
Visual souvenirs from the thirteenth cohort of the MSP graduate program